It was on the clock before the internet was a thing.
The world’s oldest webcam, known as “FogCam,” is still operational at San Francisco State University.
The camera, first installed as a student project in 1994, offers everyone who logs on a bird’s-eye view of the campus, according to SF Gate.
The tech relic consists of a Logitech camera mounted on a flexible plastic tripod on the second floor of the university’s commercial building — and many students don’t even know it’s there. However, according to CNN, it is considered a technological milestone and a “website pioneer”.
Co-creator Jeff Schwartz was a graduate student in educational technologies learning to write scripts or write instructions to control computers when he stumbled upon the very first live webcam that predated the internet – the “Trojan Room Coffee Pot Cam”. the University of Cambridge. Cambridge students invented it so researchers toiling in their computer lab could check whether the coffee maker in the next room was full or empty.
Schwartz took inspiration from the UK university and teamed up with a staff member who supports the department, Dan Wong, to bring FogCam to market.
They used the first webcam-like device designed for universal distribution, a Connectix QuickCam, which they connected to a Mac they bought at the campus bookstore and merged it with bespoke software, SF Gate explained.
The fledgling device got its name because of the foggy vision it shared – reflecting both the city’s famously foggy weather and the low-resolution images the device produces.
“It was technology that we compared to ‘The Jetsons’ at the time,” said Andrew Roderick, associate vice president of the university’s academic technology department.
“Webcams represented the first time you could have a camera designed to deliberately disseminate images on the Internet,” he said. “It created this first idea that we could connect on a screen and sort of predicted the Zoom thing that we’ve had to rely on during the pandemic.”
When it was announced in 2019 that the FogCam would be shut down after 25 years, the public responded with an overwhelming effort to save it — spreading messages with the hashtag #SaveTheFogCam and even offering to provide donations to keep it running.
The outpouring of support came as a surprise — and as a result, Schwartz settled with SFSU, giving the school the right to take control of the beloved FogCam.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Roderick said. “People really cared about this thing.”